Bringing in the big guns
You might want to read what one Hoboken411 reader commented about Howard Safir (#39). They posted a NY Daily News article from last year that mentions some business deals Safir made since being NYPD commissioner.
And via email to 411, added:
“Safir doesn’t care about Hoboken and only sees this opportunity as another meal ticket for an already all you can eat cash salad bar! Safir will use this opportunity to form another company with roots in Hoboken and attempt to obtain additional no bid deals for other “questionable services” he will provide for the city at the tax payers expense.”
Is this something for Hoboken residents to be concerned with? Or is it another case of political spin?
Hiring professionals to fix Ho-broken
Hoboken’s problems make headlines. From the SWAT scandal that uncovered problems in the Police Department to the $12 Million Roberts budget deficit and the investigations now underway into missing money in the Parking Utility, the Mile Square City government has earned the title “Ho-broken.” The council and the public seem to have little confidence that the Mayor on whose watch the mess was made has what it takes to clean it up. Cue the pros.
Back in December, 2nd ward Councilwoman Beth Mason and 5th ward councilman Peter Cunningham invited a forensic accountant to pitch the council on doing a bottom up evaluation of the books of the city. At the time some suspected the numbers they were getting from the administration were a bit goofy, but didn’t get the proof until just a few weeks ago when the budget blew up, causing the current crisis.
At Wednesday night’s council meeting Mason introduced more professionals that were invited to explain how they could help the city get out of the mess it was in. Mason noted she and Cunningham were following up because “the city has been run like Enron, and we need professionals to get rid of the cancer and stop the bleeding.” Noting the city culture of patronage and hidden payoffs, Mason brought in representatives of two consulting firms with a track record to expose and eliminate it.
World-class consultants for real change
Representatives of two major consulting firms briefly discuss their experience in fixing troubled municipalities. The first was William Roberti of Alvarez and Marsal, who have turned around the finances of a pre- and post-Katrina New Orleans school system, as well as the New York City Department of Education to provide strategic advisory and financial management services that would facilitate the expansion of “Children First” reforms. Alvarez and Marsal would focus on the financial mess that is Hoboken’s books.
Commissioner Howard Safir comes to Hoboken
The second is SafirRosetti, which is focused on public safety and led by former New York City Police and Fire Commissioner Howard Safir. Appointed by Rudy Giuliani to head the FDNY in 1994 and the NYPD in 1996 Safir’s four years as Police Commissioner is notable for a 38% reduction in major crime and development and implementation of Operation Condor, a creative use of personnel resources that continues to be a centerpiece of current NYPD crime reduction strategy.
Safir’s job would be to evaluate and repair the Hoboken PD, which has been ruled under by outgoing Chief Carmen LaBruno in a manner that is now the subject of several lawsuits. Safir recently completed consulting work for Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and had decades of experience in law enforcement management. Public Safety Director Bill Bergin was not happy to have Safir in the room, while Mayor David Roberts looked like his head was about to explode as Safir and Roberti spoke about what they do and how they could help Hoboken. I suppose anyone might feel that way if there was a threat to crash your “party.”
You might be surprised to read this (or not), but the Mayor is in no hurry to bring consultants like these on board to find and fix government waste. Roberts was described as “respectful but dismissive” of the idea, saying he would look to the state of New Jersey for help. Mason said bringing in a firm like Safir’s or Kroll/Zolfo Cooper (or any other with similar credentials) to evaluate the performance of the Police and Fire departments to make them more efficient, while a firm like Alvarez and Marsal would work on operations and finances. Mason attempted to seek an emergency waiver from the 60-day time period to request proposals from consultants, but that effort was declined by the council, which decided a normal RFQ process was necessary. Peter Cammarano was especially critical of the move.
If the Roberts administration doesn’t drag its feet on the RFQ a decision could be made on hiring consultants in July.
What do you think? Is it time to bring in the pros to fix Ho-broken? Are Mason and Cunningham on to something here or do you like the Roberts/Cammarano “Go slow” approach? Share your thoughts in the comments section.